Introduction: Portable Leather Chess Set

About: Middle Aged Maker of various fun but useless objects, including but not limited to: Blank books, wooden swords, magic wands, water color paintings, paracord paraphernalia, sling shots, foam rubber helmets, che…

Make a portable leather Chess set with minimal tools and experience!

My buddy John helped me with this one. Thanks, bro!

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

A hammer or mallet
Razor blades/utility knife
1/2 inch round punch(feel free to try different sizes and shapes)
Letter & number punch set (or some way to mark pieces)
Leather edge beveler
Small paint brushes
Ruler(preferably metal)
Speed sqaure
Pen and sharpie marker

2 pieces of differently colored leather scraps, about the size of your hand.

1 piece of leather that you can get an eight inch square from

Acrylic paints in various colors, I used black white and dark yellow. Your leather colors will affect your pallet choices.

Step 2: Punch Pieces

Using your round punch and hammer, punch 16 pieces from both of your smaller leather scraps. We wound up dropping and losing several of our pieces, as well as missing a punch or two, so if you can, a few extra pieces of each color wouldn't hurt!

Step 3: Add Piece Markings!

We used a letter and number stamping kit to mark each piece as follows:
& for King(1 of each color)
Q for Queen(1 of each color)
B for Bishop(2 of each color)
K for Knight(2 of each color)
R for Rook(2 of each color)
P for Pawn(8 of each color)

We used K for Knight and "&" for King because we didn't want to confuse pieces. We had thought about using k for both then adding a secondary marking for the King, but decided to make the King stand out by making him the only non alphabet piece.

Step 4: Add Some Flair! or Don't...

As we were I using black leather for one set of pieces, the stamped letters didn't really stand out. You may not have this problem depending on leather and tooling choices you make, though.

We did try using some rub n buff type paste on the stamps to get the letters to show, but that didn't work. I mean, there was silver in the letters, but also on the rest of the leather, the tool, my hands... If you find a way to make it work let me know.

Step 5: Add a Little Color

Acrylic paint was our answer. I would drop some on a finger tip, and smear it down into the letter, then my buddy would wipe it gently with a damp paper towel. DO NOT apply all the paint then go back and try to wipe down the pieces. We did that be black pieces and it gave the paint time to soak into the grain, so we had to scrub the whole piece clean and repaint. We actually managed to mangle a piece or two, and wound up having to replace then. On the green pieces we did the "fill and wipe" and they turned out MUCH better.

Step 6: Make a Big Square!

This was the most difficult part for me, because I had to make a bunch of long, straight, square lines and cuts. Take your time, check all your math, double check your layout BEFORE you cut.

To make the Chess board, use "Math and other Dark Arts" to determine how big you want your board to be. I used a1/2 punch for my pieces, so I drew a 3/4 inch square and a 1 inch square on a piece of paper and dropped in a couple of pieces. I preferred the look of the 3/4 inch square.

I then went into a deep trance and spoke with the spirits and they told me that the play field would need to be 6 inches across(8*0.75=6). I then added 2 inches for a 1 inch boarder on each side. So I needed a square piece of leather 8 inches wide in each direction.

I grabbed a razor knife and a metal ruler and started by trimming one edge of my large leather piece into a straight line. I then used the ruler to measure 8 inches from my straight edge in two spots, marking them with a pen. I used my ruler to draw a line between the two points, double checked it was 8 inches from the straight edge, then cut along that line using a ruler as a straight line guide, and a razor knife.

I then used a speed square to make a line perpendicular to one of my freshly cut edges, using my ruler to make it 8 inches long. I cut along that line to make a third straight edge, then repeated the steps to get a parallel line eight inches away. I made the final cut and now had a square of leather 8 inches on each side.


Step 7: Make 64 Much Smaller Squares!

I used my ruler to mark a 1 inch boarder all around my play mat. I then made a series of lines every 3/4 inch along two parallel edges, inside my 1 inch boarder. Once I had them laid out, I rotated the piece 90 degrees and repeated.

So many squares!

Step 8: Breathing Room

I decided to add a little separation and texture to the board by making a groove between each square. I used my metal ruler and a leather edge beveler to make some grooves along the lines I drew in the previous step. I know this is not the correct tool, but I don't have a groove tool yet, so I'm doing what I can with what I got.

Step 9: Add Some More Color

I now had my squares laid out and the board grooved. I needed to make every other square dark(I was using light leather, if you're using dark leather, make your squares lighter) I used a pencil to mark which squares I would paint, so I wouldn't make permanent mistakes. Then I painted each marked square with black acrylic paint and a small brush. I managed to mess up a bunch, so take your time.

I had used painters tape on the edge to protect the boarder, and I should have done the same to the board, but I'm lazy and impatient sometimes.

Learn from my failures.

After the paint dried I used a sharpie to go along the grooves and make the edges of the squares a little more well defined. Chess board achieved!

Step 10: Tada! Chess Set!

Now all you have to do is play! My buddy is going to make a case for it, so I can keep it in my backpack!

Thanks for reading!